The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) has completed the new Interstate 81 (Veteran’s Memorial Highway) bridges over the Potomac River in Washington County. The four-year, $104.6 million project improves safety and mobility, accommodating higher commercial truck volumes and capacity for travel into Washington County and West Virginia. The project is part of Governor Larry Hogan’s $1.97 billion investment in highways and bridges.
“Interstate 81 is the primary travel route between Maryland and West Virginia, and an important link of the region’s supply chain,” said Governor Hogan. “As we continue the fight against COVID-19, the completion of these improvements will allow Washington County residents, visitors and businesses to keep Maryland moving in a safe, efficient manner.”
The original bridges were built in 1965. While safe, the bridges were in need of upgrades. In 2016, when construction on the project began, traffic volume in the corridor was 63,400 vehicles a day – more than double compared to two decades earlier – with trucks accounting for 28% of that volume. By 2035, daily I-81 volumes are projected to increase to 91,850 vehicles. The completed work is the first of a four-phase project to upgrade and widen I-81 from the Potomac River/West Virginia State line to Pennsylvania.
“These improvements on I-81 have been more than two decades in the making and will have a lasting impact on interstate commerce and the lives of Marylanders and our neighbors throughout the region,” said MDOT Secretary Greg Slater. “This is a transformational project, and it couldn’t have happened without the invaluable partnership between Washington County, the West Virginia Department of Transportation, the National Park Service and our own dedicated team.”
Throughout construction, MDOT SHA made every effort to minimize impacts to motorists by maintaining two travel lanes in each direction of I-81. Triton Construction Inc. of St. Albans, West Virginia, performed the work.
This project is part of our ongoing commitment to making Maryland’s infrastructure modern and reliable into the future,” MDOT SHA Administrator Tim Smith said.
“I am happy that this expansion project has come to fruition,” said State Sen. Paul Corderman. “This completed project will benefit commerce, tourism and overall quality of life for the citizens of Washington County.”
The I-81 project is an example of the work MDOT SHA has accomplished during the COVID-19 State of Emergency while focusing on the health and safety of customers and work crews. MDOT SHA works hard to maintain safe traffic mobility in work zones for our crews as well as our customers. Drivers need to stay alert, focus on driving and, look for reduced speed limits, as well as other driving pattern changes. Drive like you work here and slow down in construction zones.
From intersection improvements to widening and new interchange construction, MDOT SHA is investing in projects to enhance the commute and daily travel for millions of Marylanders. MDOT SHA maintains more than 2,500 bridges and 17,000 miles of non-toll state roads – the interstate, US and state numbered routes in Maryland’s 23 counties.